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COMMENTARY: McAuliffe is the best candidate to lead us out of pandemic

COMMENTARY: McAuliffe is the best candidate to lead us out of pandemic

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McAuliffe is best candidate to lead us out of pandemic

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe casts his vote at the County Government Center in Fairfax on Oct. 13.

IN A pandemic, with lives on the line, Terry McAuliffe is the only candidate Virginia can count on.

As a physician and a Virginian concerned about the future of our commonwealth, I often think about our leaders’ abilities to face crises. Like medical professionals, our leaders need to be able to act quickly and decisively when lives are at risk.

After watching venture capitalist and gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin make his case, I’m convinced he isn’t the leader Virginia needs.

With Virginia still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, is clear where he stands. He supports mask requirements. He supports mandatory vaccinations. He doesn’t mince words. Mr. McAuliffe is not unlike a physician who makes the needed calls to benefit or even save the patient.

During a deadly global pandemic, Mr. McAuliffe’s clear-eyed direction will protect health and lives. After more than 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to gather a growing body of scientific evidence about how best to keep people safe. Two safety measures that can prevent COVID-19 from spreading are mask wearing and vaccinations.

Mr. McAuliffe shows the courage we need in our leaders when he unapologetically and unequivocally says he supports mask and vaccine mandates, and urges all Virginians to do our duty by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.

In contrast, Mr. Youngkin ducks and dodges when he’s asked something that he and his political handlers think may anger the right-wing, pro-Trump, COVID-19-denying base that he seems to need to win.

In one of his debates with Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Youngkin wouldn’t say whether he supported vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella, which are currently required for children. Then he emailed a separate statement to the Virginian–Pilot saying he did.

While this statement is welcomed by physicians to protect kids’ lives, the previous hedging could no doubt have been dangerous. Also, Mr. Youngkin did not clarify why he opposes adding COVID-19 to the immunization schedule for children.

He has been engaging in COVID-19 vaccination double talk. He says vaccinations are essential to protecting people but he wouldn’t require them, not even for nurses caring for cancer patients with weakened immunity.

To discover his true opinion, start with Mr. Youngkin’s campaign ad featuring a physician who has posted anti-mask rhetoric on his Facebook page. Virginians should also remember that Mr. Youngkin has promised to block schools and businesses from implementing safety measures that can reduce COVID-19 transmission, such as masks and vaccines.

He said he prefers to follow the example of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose anti-mask, anti-vaccine policies led to massive outbreaks and mass deaths in the state.

Mr. Youngkin’s opposition to masks in schools also stands at odds with evidence showing masks can reduce COVID-19 infections among children by more than threefold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released studies showing that COVID-19 outbreaks and cases were far more likely to happen in schools without mask requirements.

For these reasons, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association strongly recommend universal masking in schools.

Virginia has a roadmap that can help us navigate the difficult journey through COVID-19 in the months and years ahead. Instead of consulting this evidence-based, scientifically-informed guide, Mr. Youngkin chooses to ignore it in favor of disinformation, deception and distraction.

His glib triangulations and cynical political calculations show he has no idea how COVID-19 is destroying people’s lives and causing pain and suffering for the patients and families I care for every day.

Mr. McAuliffe’s compassion, clarity and readiness to follow the science that can get Virginians through this pandemic should make one thing clear: Mr. McAuliffe is the best person to lead our commonwealth during this unprecedented challenge.

Dr. Rommaan Ahmad, D.O., is a pain management physiatrist in Alexandria and Virginia lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care.

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